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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 36

In Recapitulation and Conclusion, Sir

In Recapitulation and Conclusion, Sir,

I only wish further to say that by the indulgence of the House I have thus at great, but I hope not at unnecessary length endeavored to call the attention of Congress and of the country to the vast and increasing public evils which exist in the land, whose origin lies in the excessive use of that most powerful poison known as alcohol. I have not dealt in specific instances, but in masses of fact as they have been gathered and accumulated here and there by the statistician, the census-taker, the official investigator, and most of all by that noble profession which comprises so many of the ablest and best of men—a profession whose theory is the gospel of man's physical and mental nature, and whose practice is philanthropy applied to the details of all human woe—the medical profession, which by its researches in the chemical world and its incessant and protracted pursuit of the recondite origin of disease and of the philosophy of suffering and despair, as well as of the sources of vigor and hope and happiness to mankind, has placed civilization under the largest debt that is due to any of the learned orders of society; that profession, sir, has not failed to stamp upon alcohol the mark of Cain among poisons. It is the murderer of men. That noble profession has brought it to the doors of the Capitol, and charged it with the wholesale death of our people. They assail it as the pestilence which walketh in the darkness and which wasteth in the noonday—as the parent of every crime, as the cup of misery ever full; the prolific source of ignorance, poverty, squalor, idiocy, insanity in all its page 42 dreadful forms, personal ruin, social destruction, national ruin—the prime agency of hell on the earth. And with them come all classes and conditions of men. These are not witnesses whose testimony can be denied or gainsaid. I will not speak of woman in rags and disheveled hair, with her wan cheek and hollow voice, nor of her children shivering on the corners of the street, starving within the shadow of churches built to the Most High with the price of their blood. It is not fitting here to be sentimental, nor would I attempt it if permitted The gravity of the occasion has passed beyond all necessity of resort to touching tales and strokes of pathetic imagery. The evil is before us. Its infinite extent must be admitted. There is nothing to be considered but the remedy and its application. I have endeavored to present one that seems to me to have been born of hope.

This measure is not proposed by any party that now exists. I trust that it will encounter opposition from no party whatever. It has been prepared with the knowledge of scarcely any one. I am alone responsible for it. It is not the project of "temperance men," as they are sometimes called, whether derisively or otherwise. On the contrary, mistaking its true character and misconceiving its far-reaching consequences, and its avoidance of conflict with the interests and passions of the present time, "temperance men" have complained that it is an evasion of the conflict. I fear that fifteen years of agitation will convince such of us as may then be alive that this objection does not recognize the great power of existing forces which must be overcome. It should be remembered that no battle is won until the enemy is driven from his position. He is now intrenched in the Constitution of this country. The battle may go on as it has gone on for fifty years, without one single blow being struck at the manufacture of alcohol. And as hitherto "men may come and men may go" and thousands may continue to fall on either side, yet the battle remain forever undecided, because the struggle, however violent, is renewed forever by the recruits of successive generations. There is no concentration of forces upon the main position. Effort is lost because misdirected. Much of it, to be sure, is not wholly lost. Moral suasion—that is, argument and precept and exhortation, from the pulpit, the rostrum, the press, and private admonition—molds public opinion and accomplishes wonders for individual men, but it lacks the powerful reinforcement of national law. That it can never get until it asks for and demands it. This revolution in national law can be wrought only by years of agitation and effort. Local sentiment must be awakened almost everywhere; in at least two-thirds of the country existing opinion must be reversed before the Constitution of the country in this respect can be changed. Meanwhile each State retains all the power it now has over both fermented and distilled liquors, and as soon as this measure has been ratified there would be conferred upon the States largely increased control over both. Discussion and effort would demand the attention of the nation as such, and a concentration of the whole army upon a com prehensive plan of battle to carry the citadel would be substituted for isolated and sporadic warfare. And when the battle is once gained it is won for all time. This form of effort is infinitely the best way in which to accomplish local reform. The facts and arguments upon which the temperance reform is based are the same, whether urged to page 43 influence the action of the individual, the local opinion, or Legislature of a single State, or the nation at large; and the modification of the national Constitution involves that universal local effort and the creation of that public sentiment everywhere which will result in the enactment and enforcement of prohibitory State and territorial laws.

Temperance men object because the first clause of this amendment if adopted does not become operative until 1900. They fear that they will die without the sight. So they may, but how can they object until they have tried to see whether they can obtain even this? Consider the past. Be admonished by history. Do not lose everything by attempting the impracticable. Remember that this is an effort to procure the enactment of a law, which must carry the heads and hearts of conservative jurists, of dignified and unconvinced legislators, and the popular vote. This is a different thing from enthusing a popular assembly under the magnetism of Mr. Gough. Do not forget either that it is to be the act of the nation; that, however it may be as between God and alcohol, however it may be between the maker of alcohol and the higher law, yet we as a nation have assured the maker and dealer in liquor that he might vest his capital in permanent forms, that he might manufacture this article for all purposes whatever, and that we would protect him in the enjoyment of his capital and the production of his still. We take from his industry yearly vast sums in the way of taxation for the support of the Government. True, this legalized destruction of national wealth infinitely transcends the advantage of the tax, but nevertheless we have legalized the traffic for a century. Now have we as a nation any right at once to destroy his industry and turn the distiller and his family upon the street to starve? Is he not entitled to reasonable notice of the change in the national policy, that he may gradually divert his capital and turn his business capacity in some other direction and train his sons in some other employment? And if this view does not strike you with force, then consider the further fact that there are more than $500,000,000, probably $1,000,000,000, vested in this traffic to-day in the United States, and that such an interest will for many years to come have sufficient power to defeat any measure which destroys it at once.

But liquor makers and sellers are men. Great numbers of them are respectable and honest men. I have no sympathy with the wholesale denunciation of them as a criminal class. Many of them recognize the dreadful consequences which flow from the business in which they are engaged; yet it is a lawful business; circumstances over which often they have no control have identified them with it just as others have found their way into the pulpit, into Congress, or into other avocations of life. It is no more just to denounce them as cold-hearted villains, intent upon nothing but the destruction of mankind, than it is to assail the personal integrity of every man who ever owned a slave. If approached in a proper spirit with a proposed reform in which they should be recognized as men and invited and urged upon considerations which must influence any humane being, and which would give them a chance to save themselves and their families, I believe that the actual co-operation of many liquor makers and sellers could be secured.

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Since the introduction of this resolution it has been attacked as a palpable effort to curry favor with the prohibitory sentiment of the country, and at the same time avoid offense to the "beer element." It is no such thing. This measure is not of that radical nature to command the vehement approbation of what are known as prohibitory men, though it must and I trust will command increasingly their approval. But the question of the manufacture and use of fermented liquors is left where it now is, with the States, because it is medically still an open question whether the restricted use of such liquors is not beneficial to the people, although their use is fast becoming excessive and an abuse. But there is very slight difference of opinion as to the destructive tendency of distilled liquors as administered by the "laity," and all agree that the great mass of the evils of intemperance arise from their manufacture and use as a beverage. And if the ban of the law can be placed upon the manufacture and use of distilled alcoholic liquors as a beverage, the minor abuses resulting from fermented liquors can well be left wholly to the restraining powers of the States, as enlarged by the second clause of the proposed amendment. While by no means of a callous organization, I certainly do not complain of criticism which attacks my personal motives, some of which has been brought to my attention. Those motives are not relevant to the measure itself. And whatever may be said by others, I am consoled by the consciousness that this step is taken after long reflection, that my motives are satisfactory to myself, and that they will be judged by the only tribunal to whom they can be surely known and whose approval is of much consequence.

The opposition of the consumer to any national measure which should at once deprive him of his beverage, would be found to be very serious and I fear decisive. But there is no class of men who have a stronger desire to see their children saved from the chains which hold them to their own dreadful doom, than the drunkards of this country. This measure has been sneered at as a proposed reform—for posterity. So it is; and as such it ought and I think will enlist the overwhelming force of parental feeling in its favor whenever the public mind has studied its peculiar features and elements of strength.

I think that existing parties may well hesitate to oppose this measure. The cause it represents is one of moral reform, and it must be reinforced by legislation. In due time it will be. If neither of the great parties now dividing the country sees fit to antagonize it, this measure will force its way without being made the source and object of political strife. Becoming operative so long in the future, it ought not to provoke the opposition of any political organization, and all men should be able to consider this subject calmly and to decide it upon its merits. If it is a measure enlisting the moral convictions and humane sentiments of the people, and especially of that nucleus of able, conscientious, and aggressive men who are ultimately the ruling power in every progressive nation, although for years they may struggle on fighting and dying under the banner of defeat, it will be well for all parties that would live to beware how they oppose this proposition. At least let it have fair consideration by the House and the wintry, for it is a subject which will have con- page 45 sidenation. It is not a ghost, nor will it "down. I ask for it the considerate attention of all men now, for the time is coming when it will be forced upon them. The political exigency which absorbs and distracts the country will pass away, but this evil will not pass away. Its extirpation will be imperiously demanded long after the question of the succession to the Presidency shall have been settled whether by peace or by war. Public men will be destroyed who touch it, but the cause will survive. Stronger arms will uphold and advance the banner until victory floats on its ample folds; and the Constitution of the country shall yet become the pledge of sobriety and temperance among the people, the ally of virtue, and not the charter of this great source of ignorance, misery, and crime.